As Russia grapples with relentless drone attacks that it attributes to the Ukrainian military, the country was hit by what it described as the biggest attack on its soil that led to the destruction of four Il-76 military transport aircraft.
In the attack on Russia’s Pskov Oblast, Russian state media reported in the early hours of August 30 that at least four Il-76 military transport aircraft were damaged in what was later confirmed to be a UAV strike on the Kresty airfield.
The first official communication came from the Pskov regional governor Mikhail Vedernikov, who informed that the air defense in Pskov airport was dealing with a “drone attack,” as he posted visuals of an explosion and a big fire. According to the sources, the attack caused the Ilyushin 76 military planes to burst into flames.
The regional governor later said, “I’ve been on site since the beginning of the incident. Preliminary reports suggest there are no casualties. The extent of the damage is being assessed.” The exact damage of Il-76 that caught fire could not be independently assessed by EurAsian Times.
Pskov lies near the Estonian border, more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) from the Ukrainian border. Although Kyiv rarely comments on strikes inside Russia, let alone take responsibility for the attack, it has not denied involvement in this latest attack that has rattled the Kremlin.
Reportedly a burning Russian Il-76 at Pskov Airbase pic.twitter.com/Hp12PrYDub
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) August 29, 2023
In what appears to be the biggest drone attack on Russian soil, the Russian Defense Ministry (RuMoD) has reported that Ukrainian drones targeted six Russian regions.
Drones were shot down over Moscow, Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan, and Kaluga after hitting an airfield in the western Pskov region. On his part, Mikhail Vedernikov ordered all flights to and from the airport to be canceled to examine the damage during the day.
Drone attack on six Russian regions reported:
– Pskov airport: four Il-76 military transport aircraft damaged;
– Bryansk: Kremniy El microelectronics factory on fire
– Kaluga: oil reservoir hit
Sevastopol and the bay attacked by naval drones.
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) August 30, 2023
Social media posts and videos showed a massive fire and smoke rising over Pskov. No one was hurt, according to Vedernikov, and the fire was put out. According to unconfirmed media reports, 10 to 20 drones may have targeted the airport.
In response to the drone assaults, three key airports outside Moscow—Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo, and Domodedovo—temporarily stopped all incoming and outgoing flights.
However, the Pskov attack led to an angry retaliation from Moscow. Russia launched Shahed drones at Kyiv from various directions in what was described by Ukrainian officials as the most significant attack since spring. Following this, the drones in Kyiv were targeted using the Tu-95MS strategic bomber.
The fierce military retaliation by Moscow is not surprising given the utility of military transport aircraft at the time of war. The Il-76 is an archaic but practical medium-range military transport aircraft tasked with dropping paratroopers, carrying troops and combat equipment with crews and armaments, including medium-sized battle tanks, and airlifting cargo for troop units.
The first such aircraft was delivered to the Soviet Air Force in June 1974 and has remained the backbone of Russia’s military transport fleet ever since. It was deployed extensively in several battle zones, including Afghanistan and Syria. Since it was a Soviet aircraft, Ukraine also has quite a few in its inventory.
Losing four such aircraft to fire could be a massive loss for the Russian military since the planes will be in repair hangars even if they haven’t been completely destroyed.
Having said that, while Ukraine allegedly took out Russian military aircraft, Moscow obliterated the same number of Ukrainian military boats on the same day.
Russia Destroyed Four Ukrainian Military Boats
The Russian Ministry of Defense admitted on August 30 that it attacked and destroyed four Ukrainian military boats carrying at least 50 personnel of the Ukrainian Special Forces in the Black Sea.
An aircraft “destroyed four high-speed military boats” around midnight Moscow time [21:00 GMT], the ministry wrote on the Telegram messaging app. The boats were transporting “landing groups of Ukrainian special operations forces with a total number of up to 50 people,” the ministry stated. Still, it was unclear exactly where the event occurred in the Black Sea.
Russia’s TASS Agency reported that drone boats attempted to attack the bay of Sevastopol in Crimea. Anti-submarine warfare forces repelled the attack.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor appointed by Moscow, said Russian defenses allegedly successfully thwarted a “seaborne drone attack near” Sevastopol Bay in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014 and has since become home to its Black Sea fleet headquarters. “Anti-submarine… forces have completed their work,” Razvozhayev said without divulging additional details.
Russian Ministry of Defense#Breaking: Today a naval aviation aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet destroyed 4 high-speed military boats with landing groups of military personnel of the Ukrainian special operations forces totaling up to 50 people.
— Scytale News (@ScytaleNews) August 29, 2023
In recent weeks, Kyiv has used military speedboats to raid the Crimean Peninsula and attack Russian ships in its territorial waterways. Ukraine claimed its troops had hoisted the national flag in Crimea last week as part of a “special operation” to commemorate Ukrainian Independence Day.
Officials appointed by Russia in Crimea reported repelling a drone attack on the harbor of the port city of Sevastopol. It’s not immediately clear how many of the drones have been destroyed, according to Mikhail Razvozzhayev, or whether the strike was able to cause any significant damage.
In recent months, drone strikes on Crimea have increased. Drones have attacked fuel depots and airfields, which Russian authorities attribute to Kyiv. The Ukrainian officials, however, stopped short of taking responsibility while indirectly hinting at their involvement.